Despite a few shortcomings, Creative's Zen VisionM is a great Apple iPod alternative. I tested a 30GB model of the video-ready music device, which possesses the finest colour screen I've ever seen on a portable player.
The VisionM sounded great, too, though audio codec support is a bit weak -- with support for MP3, WMA, and WAV, but not for AAC, FLAC, or Ogg Vorbis formats. Still, the player works nicely with PlaysForSure subscription services such as Napster. In addition, it carries an FM tuner/recorder and a voice recorder.
It supplies a raft of options for photo and video viewing on the unit's beautiful 320 x 240 pixels screen. The device supports enough video codecs to keep video enthusiasts happy, and an included dongle lets you link the player to a TV.
I had no trouble navigating files on the VisionM, thanks to the player's touchpad interface. With default sensitivity, a few quick flicks of my thumb allowed me to move through lengthy lists of artists and albums, though landing on a specific selection was sometimes challenging.
Unfortunately, the VisionM has a few drawbacks when compared to the 30GB video-ready iPod.
For starters, it's about 1.5 times as thick as an iPod, and you need a dongle to charge the player and sync files to it.
Its MediaSource application also needs work, especially when matched against Apple's slick iTunes. If you can look beyond these flaws, however, you'll find a capable portable media player with useful features and a stellar screen.
Specifications: FM tuner/recorder, voice recorder, supports MP3, WMA and WAV.
Verdict: This iPod alternative offers good sound and a beautiful screen for viewing photos and video.
The product is distributed by Creative Labs.